Victim tells Boulder police she was 15 when pastor, Jason Roberson, began 7-year sexual relationship

Youth pastor held on child sexual assault

ABC News 7, Denver/September 5, 2013

By Alan Gathright

Boulder, Colorado -- A youth pastor has been arrested after a young woman told Boulder police the pastor had an "inappropriate" seven-year relationship with her that began when she was 15 years old.

Jason Allen Roberson, 35, a youth pastor at VineLife Church in unincorporated Boulder County, surrendered at the Boulder County Jail on Wednesday after police obtained a warrant for his arrest, said Boulder police spokeswoman Kim Kobel.

Roberson faces charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, sexual exploitation of a child and unlawful sexual contact.

Kobel said Roberson was a close friend of the victim's family.

The woman, who is now a 23-year-old Boulder resident, told investigators she "trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others," Kobel said in a news release.

"The victim said during their relationship, Roberson touched her inappropriately and watched her undress by spying on her outside of her home in Boulder. Roberson allegedly admitted to this behavior when confronted by the victim and family friends," Kobel said.

According to an arrest affidavit, the investigation began on May 8, 2013 when the woman was interviewed by a detective at the Boulder Police Department.

She told the detective that, as a child, she attended VineLife Church with her family and became friends with the youth pastor when she was in the church youth group.

In 2005, the then-15-year-old girl decided she wanted a career in the church and began seeking internships and work opportunities at VineLife.

At the same time, she and Roberson began exchanging text messages and this led to frequent and intimate phone calls between the two, the affidavit said. By the end of 2005, the woman told police was receiving 10 to 15 calls a week from Roberson. He would show up at her school and call her between classes so they could talk.

In 2005, the teen was alone in a room at the church when Roberson came in and told her he had a photo on his cellphone that he was anxious to erase, but didn't know how, the affidavit said. The teen grabbed the phone and saw a photo of a penis. She handed the phone back to Roberson and said told him it was "gross." Roberson said he didn't mean for her to see the image and he had taken the photo of his penis to send it to a buddy as a joke. "That's what guys do," Roberson told the girl, according to the affidavit.

The woman told the detective she was very naïve when she began the relationship with Roberson. She said she "had never had a boyfriend before and knew little about romantic relationships," the affidavit stated. Looking back, she said she realizes that "Jason was able to take her reality and twist it for his personal use."

 She said Roberson began calling her and saying he was suicidal. This happened about five times. The woman told the detective that, as a teen, she began "feeling responsible for his emotional needs."

She said she began to "feel very manipulated by Jason."

On at least two occasions, Roberson told her she was dressed inappropriately and convinced her she must change her clothes. He later told her he had stood outside, watching through a window as she changed in his church office or her room at home, the affidavit said. The pastor acted distraught, saying he didn't want to watch her change, but had been unable to help himself, according to the affidavit.

The woman said Roberson's behavior escalated to him making sexual comments and discussing masturbation with her. Eventually, he began groping her breasts, the affidavit said. The groping sometimes happened in his church office or as they passed in church hallways and even at her home.

The woman said Roberson once snuck into her home around midnight when her family members were asleep. During an interview with the detective, Roberson said he once reached through a dog door at the teen's home and unlocked the house door to let himself in. The youth pastor said he was trying to "scare" the girl as a "joke," the affidavit stated.

Just before she graduated from high school, the teen "told Jason that she did not want him to touch her again," the affidavit stated.  She told the detective Roberson stopped for a while, "but eventually he resumed his attempts at sexual contact and emotional manipulation."

The woman said she distanced herself from Roberson and VineLife Church by moving to Aspen. She eventually returned to Boulder and began working at a church there. The woman said she began telling colleagues at the new church what happened with Roberson.

Then, on March 15, 2013, the woman met with VineLife Church elders and told them what had happened with Roberson, the affidavit stated. Church leaders suspended Roberson and began an internal investigation.

The detective interviewed church leaders and obtained church records with a court order. The detective learned from church records that "Jason Roberson has repeatedly confessed to church officials that he has touched (the victim's) breasts on multiple occasions," the affidavit stated.

Church leaders had Roberson take a lie-detector test as part of their internal investigation, the affidavit said. The polygraph examiner's report said Roberson admitted groping the girl a month before her 18th birthday, when she was a juvenile, the affidavit said.

During an interview with police, Roberson admitted touching the girl's breasts but he waivered on whether she was a juvenile or adult when this happened. He also admitted the girl had seen a cellphone photo of his penis, but he denied that he intentionally showed her the photo, the affidavit said.

Roberson also admitted to the detective that he had watched through windows as the teen changed her clothes -- once at the church and once at her home. But Roberson told the detective "he had stopping watching (the teen) prior to seeing her nude," according to the affidavit.

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